Richard H. Driehaus is a big name in Chicago. Just visit his museum, which offers visitors a peek into one of the few remaining palatial homes erected by the wealthy of America's Gilded Age, and you’ll find out why. Dreihaus’ Chicago roots run deep, as he was born and raised in the city and is best known and the investor extraordinaire behind Driehaus Capital Management LLC.
Driehaus’s personal interest and commitment to historic preservation stems from a focus on the built environment. The Dreihaus Museum was resurrected from the Samuel M. Nickerson Mansion, and his funding has also helped preserve the 1886 Richardson Romanesque-style Ransom Cable House, a Queen Anne-style Chicago residence constructed in 1887, and a 36-acre 1905 Georgian Revival estate in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
Chicago-area restoration projects are a number-one priority for the Driehaus Foundation, and since 1992, the foundation has funded restoration and rebuilding of the Bungalow Imitative, the National Public Housing Museum and Education Center, the Garfield Conservatory, and Caldwell Lily Pool in Lincoln Park.
The Richard H. Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture, administered through the University of Notre Dame, was established in 2002. This $200,000 annual prize promotes traditional, classical, and sustainable architecture and urban development, honoring architects each year from around the world (Read Richard H. Driehaus Foundation: Chicago Grants).
The Driehaus Foundation believes that historic buildings and spaces can be anchors in a community, sources of beauty and pride, and opportunities to reflect on America’s complex history. The foundation supports established state organizations, small advocacy groups, and everyone in between. The primary focus of Driehaus’ Built Environment program is discovering preservation techniques that can help preserve affordable housing and maintain the character of changing neighborhoods.
Through Driehaus’s Public Interest Design initiative, the foundation aims to boost community-based efforts to improve neighborhoods and expand green spaces. Unlike some other local grantmaking programs, Driehaus’ program is about more than just history; it’s about building upon the city’s past to secure the city's future.
The second grantmaking program that Chicago foundations should keep on their radar is the Economic Opportunity program. The Driehaus program supports system-wide change to improve opportunities for the working poor. But more specifically, the foundation funds public policy and advocacy causes, with the expectation that these movements impact the most Chicago residents. This means that small, direct service programs won’t fare as well as broad, city-wide campaigns. Most Economic Opportunity grants are made for general operating support, and recent grantees include The Cara Program, Arise Chicago, and the Center for Economic Progress.